Have you ever nosedived into a blissful slumber only to be awoken violently by your partner? Do you frequently wake up to a sore jaw and a rather peculiar tingling sensation on your teeth? You might just be a nocturnal bruxer! If you’re an avid teeth grinder, you’re one of 30 to 40 million Americans who also involuntarily relish in this habit, reports Business Insider!
So what if you clench or grind your teeth at night? Apart from the deeply disturbing noises it elicits, this is a harmless habit and you should just ignore it, right? Wrong! Teeth clenching and grinding has been described as a sleep disorder and can have formidable repercussions if left untreated!
What Is Bruxism?
Clenching and grinding your teeth is a common involuntary reaction to anger, fear, stress, or even concentration. However, if this reaction plays out repeatedly even when you aren’t responding to an immediate stressor, the Sleep Foundation describes these involuntary teeth grinding as bruxism.
While some individuals grind their teeth in the day, the most common form of bruxism is sleep bruxism, whereby you may granulate, gnash, clench, or grind your teeth together without any knowledge of it. Studies even reveal that almost about 15 complete sets of teeth grinding can happen in a single night!
What Causes Bruxism?
‘Several risk factors have been attributed to giving rise to teeth grinding. Some of the common causes are stress, anxiety, heavy alcohol, and caffeine intake’, says The Bruxism Association. Research also points to the fact that teeth grinding may be found more frequently in people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, or general snorers!
Symptoms of Bruxism
Think of your teeth as a hammer’s head. While a metal hammer is robust, repeated blows over time can cause substantial deformation on the hammer’s head. Similarly, your teeth may be sturdy but repeated grinding can cause many spatial impacts on your teeth, such as:
- Teeth may become flattened, fractured, chipped, or loose.
- Worn-down tooth enamel, exposing the deeper layers of the tooth.
- Increased pain Hypersensitivity of teeth due to the exposed dentin and pul
- Tired or tight jaw muscles, or a locked jaw that won’t open or close completely.
- Dull headache starting at the temples.
- Facial pain due to clenching and consistent grinding.
- Earache and disrupted sleep.
- Pain and stiffness in the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint) and surrounding muscles, leading to temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
- Brokentooth fillings and other restorations.
Chronic grinding can even grind down the teeth to stumps. In such cases, you will need root canal therapy, crowns, implants, and other endodontic help.
How Is Bruxism Treated?
Bruxism in children may not be considered as severe as bruxism in adults, as children can typically outgrow teeth grinding as they age. If you’ve been suffering from the painful conducts of teeth grinding, you can seek treatment options such as:
- Splints and mouth guards: These help even out the pressure across the jaws and create a physical barrier between the upper and lower sets of teeth. Made of hard rubber or plastic, each mouth guard is either custom-made for the patient or can be bought at most sporting stores.
- Dental correction: At times, teeth grinding can occur if the chewing surfaces of the teeth overlap each other or are crowded. In such cases, your orthodontist aims to correct your teeth alignment to prevent the premature wear of teeth surfaces.
- Medication for stress: If your teeth clenching is caused by stress, your doctor may also be able to prescribe a dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to alleviate your stress and get rid of bruxism altogether!
- Physical therapy: Bruxism is essentially caused by the tensing of jaw muscles. By targeting these muscles through therapy, it can help relieve pain and get rid of your teeth grinding habit.
- Stress management: Exercises that help promote relaxation such as meditation, yoga, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help ease your stress, frustration, and bruxism.
How Can Bruxism Be Prevented?
Teeth grinding is an involuntary habit. In order to prevent this friction, the use of a mouthguard is crucial. Get a custom-made mouthguard from your dentist that fits over your teeth and prevents them from grinding against each other.
Other lifestyle modifications such as avoidance of caffeine and alcohol and better management of stress can also be helpful.
If you’re going through the motions with teeth grinding and have not yet looked for a solution, you need to act fast! Don’t let bruxism flatten your teeth and your smile. Get treatment now!
--- By Dr. Nandita Rana I The Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) from Sharda University.